Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hawkins Ridge

Hiked: 5/13/2017
Distance: 11.5 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8505' (Middle), 8047' (Sadie), 7783' (South)
Elevation Gain: 3450'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.76
Round trip time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Recommended water: 92 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass at Crystal Lake
Difficulty: Moderate

The Hawkins family is a cluster of 4 peaks near the center of the Angeles National Forest. Mt. Hawkins (8850') is the highest and farthest north, the other three, Middle Hawkins, Sadie Hawkins, and South Mt. Hawkins, lie along a north-south ridge. Leisa and I had done Mt. Hawkins and Middle Hawkins before. Madison was celebrating his birthday and planned a route to start at Crystal Lake, hike up to Windy Gap, then the PCT to the Hawkins Ridge Trail, then descend the ridge going over these summits:

1. Middle Hawkins
2. Sadie Hawkins
3. South Mt. Hawkins

That would complete the Hawkins family for both Madison and I. Sean had done all of these summits several times. Recent rain and a cold front left us in doubt about the conditions we might face on the north slope section of the PCT. I decided to bring microspikes and poles, but leave the ice ax at home. This turned out to be fine and in fact, we encountered no snow on the trail. It was very cold, though, and my preparations for the cold came up short. About 15 minutes into the hike, Sean and Madison stopped to shed a layer. I kept all my clothes on and was quite comfortable. When we reached Windy Gap, the wind howled from the north. I pulled my balaclava on for face protection and Sean and Madison both added back some protection they shed below. We took a short detour to Little Jimmy Spring so Sean could refill some water bottles. Then, we returned to the PCT and headed up toward Hawkins Ridge. The wind was relentless and there was no protection or avoiding it. Madison had stowed his gloves and considered stopping to get them back out. But he didn't, he just toughed it out. Sean considered adding a bandanna for face protection, but didn't. I was in good shape except my fingers started getting cold. I considered getting out my mitts for wind protection, but didn't. A bad mistake. When we reached the Hawkins Ridge Trail, we stopped for hydration and food. It was during this stop that several of my fingers went numb.

Starting on the Windy Gap trail

Looking up at Windy Gap

Madison and Sean at Windy Gap, Islip ridge behind

Little Jimmy Spring

Crystal Lake basin from the PCT

Middle Hawkins from the PCT

Hawkins Ridge trail junction

Cold. I hate it. I am overly sensitive to it. The forecast was low 40sF for South Mt. Hawkins with a 15 mph wind leading to a wind chill of 39F. But, when I pulled up to the Crystal Lake parking lot, the temp was 36F, suggesting a temp on South Mt. Hawkins around 29F. At higher elevations on the north side of our loop on the PCT, it was going to be even colder. The gloves I wore had no wind protection, but I brought mitts for that purpose. The decision not to use them during the worst of the wind led to the numbness. Whether the mitts would have completely prevented it is unknown. As we climbed Middle Hawkins, the wind still blasted us from the north, and there was little relief on the summit. Sean and Madison weren't having any issues, but my fingers were causing me some distress. I finally put on my mitts and dropped chemical warmers in each one, but was not content to wait. I told Sean my hands were cold and that I wanted to continue moving. Without waiting to discuss it, I started moving down the south side of Middle Hawkins and followed the trail toward Sadie. Sean and Madison remained behind to sign the register and take care of other summit business. I flexed my fingers continuously and gripped the warmers. Middle Hawkins was high enough that it blocked the wind once I was below it. That was crucial. Soon, I was at the base of Sadie and started up. The vigorous activity, warmers, and lack of wind made a difference and feeling slowly oozed back into my frozen fingers. When I reached the summit of Sadie, I had feeling back and paused to wait for Sean and Madison. I took no photos between the Hawkins Ridge junction and Sadie. I had no desire to stop and couldn't have operated my camera anyway. During the whole episode, only my fingers were an issue. I need to figure this out or abandon the idea of ever climbing something really cold like Mt. Hood. When Sean and Madison reached Sadie, Sean placed a new register on the summit. We then headed to South Mt. Hawkins as a group.

Climbing Middle Hawkins

Looking back at Middle Hawkins and Mt. Hawkins

Sean's fresh register on Sadie Hawkins

Baldy from Hawkins Ridge

Approaching South Mt. Hawkins

At the base of the South Mt. Hawkins ridge trail

The wind was now gone and the sun warmed things up quickly. We hiked through a beautiful section of new and old pine forest. Hawkins Ridge, like the Twin Peaks and Waterman area, is in my opinion, the nicest part of the ANF. We had a very pleasant hike to the final Hawkins, taking the ridge instead of the road to the summit. Great views unfolded as we topped out and I relaxed for the first time. We sat around, ate, drank, and barely noticed two other people that made the summit from the road. We all roamed around taking photos, then started down the road. Instead of taking the road all the way, Sean suggested a "shortcut". He pointed out a faint use trail down a steep slope. It didn't take much convincing before we decided the shortcut was the way to go. The first part was a scree slide. We lost and found the use trail several times before arriving at a clearing that others had also found. Sean packed out some beer bottles and cans strewn around the area. We dropped down a second steep slope and intersected the Tototngna Loop Trail. That trail led us back to the cars.

Twin Peaks East (right), Triplet Rocks and Smith Mountain

Sean took this shot of us getting ready to head down from South Mt. Hawkins

Looking back at South Mt. Hawkins

Sean leading us down his shortcut

Trail back to the parking lot

Would you like to know more...?


  1. Say Tototngna 3 times as fast as you can. He, he. Good time with you boys. Thanks for coming along. Agree on Hawkins Ridge being one of the nicer spots in the ANF.

    1. Madison,

      I was glad to get back out with you. Always fun. Tototngna -- I gave up trying to pronounce that name. It was giving me a migraine.

  2. Despite the cold and discomfort, it looked like a great day to be on the mountain. Being that close to the top of the cloud deck is trippy.

    There's something about being at that elevation when the temp is a little crisp.......lovin' me some mountain air.

    Nice report.

    1. Mike,

      It was absolutely a great day to be on the mountain. It is such a beautiful area. I am actually looking forward to my next cold challenge and testing some new strategies.

  3. I'm a Brit new to California and enjoying hiking and reading about hikes in the area. There are several methods available for estimating walking pace - Naismiths rule based on Scottish hill walking and the Tobler function based on the Swiss alps. I've been plotting my own walking pace as a function of height gained or lost and would be interested to obtain similar data from other hikers (can easily be extracted from a .gpx file. Would you or anyone reading this be interested in sharing your own data?

  4. I hiked this and looked for the shortcut down hawkins, but all I saw was steep slippery rocky hillside.

    It's a marvelous hike by the way, the views are fantastic.

    1. joe schmoo,

      Yeah, the "shortcut" was nothing but steep slippery rocky hillside. Glad you enjoyed the views. It's one of the nicer areas of the ANF. You would probably like the area around Waterman Mountain.